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“Desert King”, let Taklimakan go from C to O

  On June 16, Silim Khan Turxun, a girl from Bagerike Township, Qiemo County, Xinjiang, got a train ticket from Qiemo to Ruoqiang. On this day, after more than 10 years of planning and more than 3 years of construction, the Heruo Railway from Xinjiang Hotan to Ruoqiang was officially opened to traffic, and the end is one of the stations. The official opening of the Heruo Railway has allowed the railway along the Taklimakan line to go from C to O, marking the completion of the world’s first desert railway loop.
  The moment he got the ticket, Silimu Khan stared down at the ticket and was stunned. For 5 minutes, she couldn’t say a word. “Our village is less than 10 minutes’ walk from the train station. I am in charge of epidemic prevention and control in the village. I have often visited the station for two years to see the staff. Although I knew it was going to open to traffic, I still couldn’t believe it when it actually opened!
  ” In the afternoon, people of all ethnic groups in the county were organized, put on their festive costumes, and beat gongs and drums on the platform early, until the first train entered the platform. Many people who did not buy tickets also rushed over to witness this milestone of change and final development. Silimuhan clearly remembered that the welcoming crowd in the station waved the five-star red flag excitedly. When the train finally entered the station, many elderly Uyghur grandmothers could no longer control it, crying and shouting: “The train is coming. Now! And there is a train in Moxian County!”
To the “Small Town”

  Only by walking on the road leading to the end can we truly understand the excitement of the people here facing the train. The “Global People” reporter took the train from Urumqi to Ruoqiang, and then drove to Qimo with the builders of the Heruo Railway. Coincidentally, our starting point and end point are the first and second largest counties in China, respectively, and the desert and Gobi occupy most of the land in these two counties. Both counties have had a splendid civilization, Ruoqiang has the ancient city of Loulan, and at the end there is Xiaowan Kingdom. But due to the erosion of wind and sand, these flourishing civilizations have all disappeared.
  The cruel history proves that the Taklimakan Desert is a “sea of ​​death”. Soon after leaving Ruoqiang County, a large piece of Gobi came into view, and there was a feeling of vastness and depression. Scattered vegetation exists only on both sides of the national road, and beyond is endless desolation. It was in such an environment that we met the Tatler Bridge of the Heruo Railway.
  The biggest highlight of the Heruo Railway is the wind and sand protection. The most important way is to build bridges and vegetation. Among the 5 sand-crossing bridges along the line, the 2.8-kilometer-long Tatlek Bridge is the shortest. However, Wang Jinzhong, secretary of the party committee and chairman of Xinjiang Heruo Railway Co., Ltd., told the Global People reporter that the construction of the bridge was the most difficult. “This area is a typical Gobi wind-sand flow section. No sand can be seen around the railway, but the sand will blow from a distance.” In the early stage, the team believed that the quicksand could pass under the bridge. However, after the completion of the bridge construction, serious sand accumulation was found in key areas such as the bridge head and the foot of the slope. After exploration, “we finally found out that when the sand blows up, sometimes there will be wind parallel to the line, and sometimes there will be wind in the opposite direction of the dominant wind direction.” The team finally closed the bridge head to keep all the sand damage out.
  Our first impression of Taklimakan is not tyranny, but cunning. The car continues all the way west, from the Gobi into the desert. Most of the national highways have vegetation on both sides, but not far away is the suffocating vast “sea of ​​death”. As the advance continued, the sun came up, and just as the sand sea scene became monotonous, another bridge appeared.

Map of the geographical location of the Heruo Railway.

  This is the Yimulakte Bridge, which is 8.6 kilometers long and has 263 piers, each of which is 15 meters high. The reporter climbed to the sand dune beside the bridge and grabbed a handful of sand, but could not feel the graininess. Compared with beaches and river beaches, the sand here can easily slip through the fingers. At the top of the dune, the reporter talked with the builder for 10 minutes, and a lot of fine sand had already flown into his eyes and mouth. On this day, the sun was shining brightly, and the wind was not too strong. “There is a local saying: Two or two pieces of soil a day are not enough to make up for at night.” Zhang Gang, the project manager of the China Railway 14th Bureau and Ruo Railway Paving Project, told a reporter from Global People.
  After only three hills climbed, we were already sweating. Going forward in the desert, the feet are always unsteady, laborious, hot, and dizzy, which is the feeling of almost every person who arrives. What is even more desperate is that the vast expanse standing on the sand dunes, the bridge and the telephone poles next to it are the only traces of human beings. Many telephone poles have been “swallowed” by the mobile sand dunes. Later, we drove to the highway and arrived at Qiemo County. Due to the itinerary, we can only appreciate half of the Heruo Railway, and there are more unpredictable sections on the road leading to Hetian that has not yet been reached. The two cross-sand bridges we passed were the shortest of the five, and the longest bridge over the Niya River was 18.6 kilometers long.
  After such a journey, it is much easier to understand the mood of the people at the end of the day. No wonder, this remote county town surrounded by desert is known as “a small town on the horizon”. Qiemo County is located in Bayingoleng Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture. In the past, people thought of Korla, the state capital, and had to go through an extremely difficult journey. Julaiti Kurban, who used to be the head of the Qiemo County Sand Control Station, is a model worker in the national forestry system. “In the 1970s, when I was 6 years old, I took the postal shuttle bus to Korla for the first time with my father, and it took 5 days.” Ju Laiti said that there are few people along the road, so I can only bring dry food and water, and I am thirsty every day. hungry again.
  ”A few years ago, when there was an airport at the end of the day, it was convenient to travel. But for ordinary people, the fare was too expensive.” Silimuhan remembered that many elderly people recalled with her the experience of walking to Korla together in the early years. Sometimes, some elderly people have diseases that the county hospital cannot treat, and the 120 ambulance can only take them to Korla.
  ”We all know that it takes time to build the railway.” Ju Laiti said sincerely: “Qimo County has a population of less than 100,000. It is very shocking that the state has invested so much money to build the railway! I often think that only China Only the Communist Party and the Chinese people can build the railway to our place!”
“Heruo Railway will definitely do it!”

  In the industry, Wang Jinzhong has the reputation of “Desert King”. In fact, Xinjiang railway builders are all “Desert Kings”. “Except for this section, I have participated in all the desert railway loops.” Wang Jinzhong pointed to the line from Kashgar to Hotan in front of a Xinjiang railway map and said, “I started working in 1982, and it has been 40 years now.” Global People The reporter asked him when was the first time he set foot on the area along the Heruo Railway. He said: “In 1999, I participated in the construction of the line from Korla to Kashgar. After completing the task, I and a few colleagues went on a self-driving tour in southern Xinjiang.” They started from Kashgar and finally arrived in Minfeng County, where the Heruo Railway passes today. “On the way, we looked at every county along the way. The reason why we looked at it so carefully was because we thought we would not come again in the next few decades.” He was deeply impressed by the walnut trees in Hotan, “Although walnuts can’t be sold for a few dollars. For the local people, planting trees is first for ecology, and second for economy.” Wang Jinzhong recalled: “At that time, Minfeng County had only one street, it was not like a county at all, but more like a village. We lived in It is the best hotel in the county, and the conditions are also very simple and the sanitary conditions are very poor. In the homes of ordinary people, there are only water and naan, and you can eat them when you pick them up. Only then did I know what the four walls of a family are.” But Wang Jinzhong changed his words and was very firm. Said: “Even so, I know that the railway will be repaired here in the future.”

  These experiences influenced Wang Jinzhong’s later life choices. At the end of 2014, Wang Jinzhong started to build the Xinjiang section of the Qinghai Golmud-Xinjiang Korla Railway (Geku Railway). During the construction process, Wang Jinzhong, the commander, led the team to participate in the preliminary demonstration work of the Heruo Railway in 2017. “Later, when the state approved the project, I took the initiative to ask Ying. Because I did the preliminary work, I knew the situation better, and it was my dream to build this railway!” Wang Jinzhong said, it was what he saw in Minfeng County more than 20 years ago that made him He made up his mind: no matter how difficult it is, the railway must be repaired to the door of the people in the isolated areas!
  ”Desert Kings” from all over the country began to participate in the construction of the Heruo Railway. On May 1, 2019, Zhang Gang came to Ruoqiang. When he first arrived, he felt the terror brought by the desert. “The sandstorm that day blocked the sun, which can only be described as covering the sky. The locals joked: Zhu Bajie is here to rob his wife!” Later, he learned that such weather was the norm in the area.

On June 16, 2022, the Heruo Railway was put into operation.

On September 27, 2021, the whole line of Heruo Railway was laid and connected.

  ”The total length of the Heruo Railway is 825 kilometers. I led the construction team to complete 535 kilometers of track laying, of which 460 kilometers are no-man’s land. Generally, the residence is dozens of kilometers away from the construction site, so the workers cannot return to the place all day. Zhang Gang said: “In the 210 days of construction every year, there are nearly 200 days of dusty weather, of which there are about 20 days of strong wind and sand weather.” When sleeping at night, the pervasive Taklimakan sand will come in through the cracks of doors and windows. , although a layer of windows was added later, and a wind-blocking corridor was added outside the door, but it still could not block the wind and sand. “You have to wear a mask when you sleep. When you wake up in the morning, a layer of sand falls on the quilt, your ears are stuffed, and the gap between the nose bridge of the mask is full. You can sweep half a bucket of sand in the house every day.” And on the construction site , Workers always eat with sand when they eat, and they can’t hide.
  The most painful is the sandstorm. Zhang Gang said that there was no warning before the sandstorm came, but it suddenly blocked the sun and engulfed everyone within a few minutes. At this time, people must lie down and wait for the dunes to pass before they can get up. “The whole process took 3-4 hours, and everyone was buried under it.” During the long wait, because the wind and sand were too large to open their mouths, the workers could only cheer each other up by slapping them. “We can’t go back when we stand up, because the construction period is not waiting for anyone, and everyone has to continue to meet the construction period in the dusty weather.”
  On May 18, 2020, Zhang Gang’s daughter was born. At that time, it was the season of raging sandstorms. “I named her Zhang Ruoke, which means: the Heruo Railway will definitely work!” The reason why he chose to believe in the harsh environment was because he saw the light of humanity in the desert. “Where the railway has not yet been opened but the tracks have been laid, there will be construction vehicles transporting construction equipment.” On the rail cars, Zhang Gang saw a group of Uyghur boys chasing after them more than once, laughing and shouting happily, as if sending a hero Expedition. On September 7, 2020, a special ceremony was held at Qiemo. Representatives of the masses went to the junction of Qiemo and Ruoqiang, which is more than 140 kilometers away from the county seat, just to welcome the first steel rail to be laid in Qiemo County. “At that time, everyone boarded the construction vehicle and rode back and forth for more than 500 meters.” Zhang Gang remembered that many people were curious at first, and laughed happily after boarding the construction vehicle, and full of tears after getting off the bus …
  Along the Heruo Railway, it is far from being as simple as windy and sandy weather. Wang Libo, the project manager of the S5 bid for the Heruo Railway of China Railway 21st Bureau, told the Global People reporter that the most memorable thing for him was the crossing of the Cheerchen River in Qiemo County. “The rotten silt in the Cheerchen River is parasitized by countless mosquitoes, small bites and gadflies. As long as you drive a pile on the silt, you will attract mosquitoes all over the sky.” At this time, the “hum” sound of countless mosquitoes converged into a The sky roared, “It’s no exaggeration to say that flying over like a fighter jet is much more powerful than stabbing a hornet’s nest!” These pests are extremely poisonous. Dress up like a beekeeper to work. Wang Libo said that the Taklimakan Desert has a hot climate, reaching 50°C in extreme cases, and pests may also be afraid of heat, so they rarely come out during the hottest time. “Originally, in order to avoid the high temperature, we had to rest at noon, but in order to avoid mosquitoes, the workers specially chose the hottest time to wear clothes similar to beekeepers to the bottom of the mud pit for construction.”

Above left: On October 19, 2020, the Heruo Railway builder was assembling the pier. Above right: The builders of the Heruo Railway are eating in the sand. Below: On May 19, 2022, Wang Jinzhong was checking the growth of plants along the Heruo Railway.

  There are countless such “purgatory” environments. But the workers have a bottom line: the construction progress cannot be delayed. Zhang Gang said: “What impresses me particularly is that none of us went home during the Spring Festival in 2020, so that the compatriots of all ethnic groups in Qiemo could see the rails being laid before New Year’s Day in 2021.”
  On the day when the track was laid, Wang Jinzhong, who seldom reveals his heart, said: “The track has been completed, the dream has come true, and my heart has been put down.” Reciting these plain words, Zhang Gang actually broke down in tears, and after a long time he said, “I saw from him. , the passing years, the same feelings.” And Wang Jinzhong told reporters: “The railway work is hard, tiring and boring. I was very painful at first. But as I get older, I see more and more, I gradually came to understand: who asked you to build the railway? It is the party and the state!”
The “Green Great Wall”

  At the beginning of the construction of the railway, Wang Jinzhong proposed to control the desertification first. But some people questioned: What if it is planted on such a large scale, what if it does not survive?
  The reason for sand control is because the wind and sand cannot go on the track. The ballast (gravel) under the rail has a shock absorption function, and when the ballast is penetrated by sand, the function will be weakened. If there is rain, the sand and ballast will form compaction, which will seriously affect the safety. When building the Geku Railway, Wang Jinzhong suffered a lot. “At that time, a sandstorm test was required, and the sand control project was implemented after the success. However, as soon as the track laying was completed, a large number of sections were buried by sand damage. It was necessary to spend a lot of money to clean the line. .”
  From this lesson, Wang Jinzhong became sober. “It takes time for plants to grow. It also requires trial and error to grow in desert conditions. If the plant protection system is still under construction when the railway is completed, there will be no sand control effect.
  ” Hu Guoxing, director of the Engineering Management Department of Xinjiang Heruo Railway Co., Ltd., recalled that compared with engineering construction, sand control projects are not at all difficult. “We initially planned to plant drought-tolerant crops such as Populus euphratica across the board. Later, we found that Populus euphratica requires too much water and cannot be grown in many places.” Later, the team changed other plants. The greatest cruelty of the sand control project is that it is sometimes “resigned to fate”. In the spring of 2020, the saplings planted by Li Xiaoquan, a “soil expert” in Ruoqiang, grew gratifyingly. But in June, a hot wind hit without warning. “After two days of scraping, the leaves were still green, but with a pinch, it turned into dry powder like tea leaves.” said Deng Bin, engineer of the Engineering Management Department of Xinjiang Heruo Railway Co., Ltd. Li Xiaoquan called him at the time, howling. He cried and said, “This is like a child I raised! After so many years of hard work, how could one die in a strong wind?”

  That year, many seedlings died in the summer, and some died in March of the following year after a winter. Afterwards, the team came to the conclusion of the pain and came up with the idea of ​​”appropriate for the right place”.
  After this principle was established, the plants grew much better. “Take Li Xiaoquan as an example. The survival rate of the area he was in charge of used to be 45%, but now it has reached 93%.” Deng Bin brought a reporter from “Global People” to the Heruo Railway Windbreak and Sand Control Demonstration Site on the outskirts of Qiemo County. . In the outermost layer, there is a high vertical sand barrier with a height of 1.5 meters above the ground, followed by the arbor area dominated by red willow and poplar. Followed by the shrub area, red willow, Haloxylon ammonium and Shaguai jujube, which are tenacious and resistant to salt and alkali land, have become the main crops. Further back, another row of grass squares is used to absorb and hold sand and dust. At the back, there was another large bush area, and another sand control barrier was built. At this time, there was not much sand and dust reaching the railway.
  Recently, someone showed Deng Bin a satellite map. “The Heruo Railway is no longer a desert, but green.” Deng Bin was very happy. This is the “Green Great Wall” he and his fellow workers built.
Let the flower of youth bloom where the motherland needs it most

  ”In 1975, when I was 8 years old, the school organized us to welcome a group of educated youths from Beijing. Later, they took root here. Among them, Dong Zhaoguo also served as our county party secretary.” Ju Laiti said that until 1989 he went to the Central University for Nationalities (now Minzu University of China), only to realize what these people gave up. “The first thing I felt when I arrived in Beijing was shock. It was so beautiful! What kind of determination did those educated youths in Beijing make when they arrived at the end of the day, and this one will last a lifetime.”

Above: The Heruo Railway Cherchen River Bridge, taken on May 18, 2022. Bottom left: On March 24, 2020, workers along the Heruo Railway were planting sand control plants. Bottom right: Drought-tolerant plants grown along the Heruo Railway.

  In 1972, in a small village in Shangcai County, Zhumadian, Henan, a young man named Wang Rongchang came to find a girl named Mao Lanyue and asked her to go to Xinjiang with her. “I’m the eldest in the family, and my parents always let me work, so I agreed, thinking that I’d come to Xinjiang to enjoy happiness.” Mao Lanyue is 71 years old. When chatting with a reporter from “Global People”, she still speaks Henan. talk. “As a result, on the first day in Qiemo County, I cried. In such a big city, there are all adobe houses, not even a brick house. It’s not as good as my
  family’s.” Forced by life, Mao Lanyue Make a living with the old man. In 1973, the eldest son of the old couple was born, and just after confinement, she carried the child to work on the farm. Pulling grass, fertilizing, planting rice, driving tractors… It was a pioneering era, and there were women working with children everywhere on the farm. “It’s just that the mosquitoes here are so poisonous that they bit the back of my son’s head bald.”
  Later, Wang Rongchang told her that he had come here in the 1960s. He also carried sandbags during the construction of Dashimen Reservoir. “He worked day and night, and his shoulders were blistered. My daughter-in-law’s father also picked sandbags there and slapped his feet. Before he died, he was limping.” In order to benefit one side of the project, change the last irrigation.
  Later, Wang Rongchang began to build houses, and his craftsmanship became famous in Shiliba Village. “Especially the fellow Uyghurs are willing to ask him to build a building, and we are willing to build a building for them, because listening to them is very exciting. I also want to learn, but I can’t.” 13 years ago, Wang Rongchang suddenly He passed away, but until a few years ago, fellow Uyghur villagers came to him to build a house. “They were very sad when they heard that my old man passed away. They said that he was such an honest man
  . “Small town”, but in every era, there are aspiring young people from all over the country who come to struggle, and this place has also changed because of them.
  In 2000, Li Guizhi, a graduate of Baoding Teachers College (now Baoding College), met a principal at a job fair. “He said he came from Qiemo Middle School in Xinjiang, where there is a special shortage of teachers.” Li Guizhi can’t forget the kindness of the principal back then, “After listening to his introduction, I didn’t think much about it, but after I went back, the idea of ​​going to work in Xinjiang became more and more popular. The stronger it is.” Li Guizhi said, “My hometown is Dingzhou, Baoding. There are many teachers there. Does Xinjiang need me more?”
  So she signed a contract with Qiemo Middle School without telling her family. She later learned that, in fact, her mother had already arranged a job for her in her hometown. One month after graduation, Li Guizhi had a fierce cold war with her mother, and her family did not want her to be so far away from home. Under pressure, she also interviewed at a local school and was accepted. Mother saw the turnaround, but Li Guizhi repented again. Her heart had already flown to the horizon, and she was still unwilling to stay in her hometown.
  The day of parting is coming soon, and the 15 graduates who have gone to Qimo will gather at their alma mater and set off together. Li Guizhi insisted that her mother only send her to the entrance of the village. Mother began to tell her to take care of herself in Xinjiang. Sitting opposite the “Global People” reporter, Li Guizhi remembered that moment more than 20 years ago, and still burst into tears. “When I parted with my mother, I forcibly endured it, got in the car, and immediately started crying.” Since then, she can’t watch it often. It’s time for mom.
  The students gathered, and many came to say goodbye. “A classmate gave me a Chinese teaching plan. I didn’t know until the end. I should bring a few more.” Li Guizhi and his classmates set foot on the train. They were looking forward to it at first, but as the train went west, the vegetation became more and more The more desolate, the mood changes. Finally, when they arrived at Korla, the kind headmaster saw them for the first time, and the first question he asked was: “How many people are here?” He was afraid that the teacher would not come. When he learned that 15 people were coming, the headmaster Finally let out a sigh of relief.

From left to right: Mao Lanyue, Li Guizhi, Slimukhan Tursun. (Photo by our reporter Yang Xueyi / Photo)

  Then, 15 graduates began to drive across the Taklimakan Desert. “We were shocked at first, but after a while, we were worried.” When they reached the tower in the desert hinterland, they saw that there were no houses, but tents. “The most impressive thing is the gate in the middle of the road. There are striking slogans on both sides: there is only a desolate desert, no desolate life.” The students were encouraged and continued to advance south. As the end of the road approached, they saw that the vegetation was getting more and more The more I feel, the better. “We sang the military song on the bus, and our mood improved.” When
  they arrived at the school, the children were very curious about the new teacher and kept asking about the outside world. After curiosity, it is the rebellious period of junior high school students. “I also doubted myself and thought about giving up.” Once, when Li Guizhi went for a walk along the banks of the Cheerchen River, he saw someone mow the lawn, “I remembered that there are gardeners who mow like this on the university campus. Children are also such little grasses. The more rebellious they are, the more I should help. Are they growing up healthy?”
  Now, Li Guizhi and his classmates have taken root in Qiemo. In 2014, a group of graduates from the western part of Hebei Baoding College wrote a letter to General Secretary Xi Jinping, reporting their work and living conditions, saying that a person’s choice will only be meaningful and valuable if it meets the requirements of the times and the needs of the people. At the signing office, Li Guizhi and college classmates signed their names together.
  Soon, they received a reply from the general secretary. The general secretary said in the letter that good sons and daughters have aspirations in all directions, and those who have aspirations struggle without regrets. I hope that more and more young people will follow your example, go to the grassroots and the people to make contributions, let the flower of youth bloom where the motherland needs it most, and write a wonderful life in the great practice of realizing the Chinese dream.
  The reporter of “Global People” said goodbye to Li Guizhi and walked in the flag square of Qiemo No. 1 Middle School, with beautiful Gesang flowers blooming on both sides. This reminded the reporter that Deng Bin took the reporter to the sand control area next to the Heruo Railway, and saw the Shaguai jujube planted two years ago, and it also bloomed brightly. Deng Bin said that the team went to Qiemo No. 1 Middle School to communicate with teachers from Baoding College, when it was a difficult time for sand control, “A teacher said to me: You are building a tangible road to help the people here lead to happiness. , rich and green, and we are building a spiritual path to help children find hope.” Deng Bin realized that they are comrades on the same front, and they are all “letting the flower of youth bloom where the motherland needs it most.” , “This is the one thing that has had the greatest impact on me since the construction of the railway. No matter what difficulties I encountered after that, I have never been shaken!” On
  the day when the railway was opened to traffic, Maolan, who bloomed the flower of youth here 50 years ago Moon thought of his wife again. “Before he died, he read the newspaper and said that there will be a train in the future.” As she spoke, she burst into tears, “but he went on to say: I’m afraid we won’t like it… I disagreed at the time and said: It doesn’t necessarily mean that he doesn’t like it. I didn’t expect that he didn’t like it in the end.” When the train tracks were laid in Qiemo County, Mao Lanyue told her son about the past, and the son quickly took his mother to the railway construction site. Look up. Now, the train has finally reached the door. “That day, I said to my old man’s photo: The train is running now, and I’ll take the train at our door for you in a few days!”

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